Queen Elizabeth II plants a tree at Grün80.
Queen Elizabeth II plants a tree at Grün80. Swiss National Museum / ASL

A queen among the Green

40 years ago, the second Swiss Horticultural & Gardening Expo, ‘Grün 80’, attracted millions of Swiss people, and one queen: Queen Elizabeth II.

Andrej Abplanalp

Andrej Abplanalp

Historian and communications chief of the Swiss National Museum.

Grün 80 was opened in the municipality of Münchenstein (Canton of Basel-Landschaft) on 12 April 1980. The second Swiss Horticultural & Gardening Expo ran until 12 October, attracting around 3.5 million visitors. The show aimed to provide a platform for Swiss horticulture, and help improve the general quality of life. Over a total area of 46,000 square metres, gardens were created, thousands of trees were planted, and nature at her most beautiful was displayed to perfection.

However, the project was not entirely uncontroversial. In an economically difficult period at the end of the 1970s, the total cost of around CHF 60 million was the strongest argument against Grün 80. In the end the funding was found, and the mood among the population when the exhibition opened was one of excitement and anticipation.

One of the landmarks of Grün80 was the huge concrete dinosaur.
One of the landmarks of Grün80 was the huge concrete dinosaur. Wikimedia
A bird's eye view of the Grün80. Taken in June 1980.
A bird's eye view of the Grün80. Taken in June 1980. ETH Library Zurich


But it wasn’t just local nature lovers who were captivated by the elaborately designed garden landscape – the British monarch was also a fan. The Queen insisted on calling in at Grün 80 during her state visit to Switzerland. Her wish was the Federal Council’s command, and so on 1 May the Queen arrived in her own Rolls-Royce. Elizabeth II enjoyed the outing, and even planted a tree. After a meal and a brief meet-and-greet with some of the locals, she and her entourage swept off to the next appointment.

While the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, were enjoying the lush flora at Grün 80, in the background police were doing battle with around 250 demonstrators who had come to Münchenstein to protest. Officials managed to shield the British monarch from the commotion.

Elizabeth II’s visit was certainly the highlight of the exhibition, but the second Swiss Horticultural & Gardening Expo also went well in other respects. The organisers had anticipated three million visitors. The final figure was half a million more than that, most likely thanks to the high number of season tickets sold. In the Basel area in particular, these multi-visit passes were very popular and were widely used. The other side of the coin was the deficit that remained at the end. The loss came to around CHF 10 million and took years to recoup. Migros, which later took over the site, contributed to making up the loss. The company still runs the Park im Grünen in Münchenstein.

Federal Councillor Kurt Furgler and Queen Elizabeth II at Grün 80.
Swiss National Museum / ASL

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